The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age review

The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age is a new Facebook game from Kabam. It is not related to the company’s recent iOS and Android game The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle Earth, which we reviewed here. It is currently featured on the front page of Facebook’s App Center.

Screen Shot 2013-03-25 at 09.00.23

The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age is a midcore strategy game of Kabam’s usual breed, but unlike some of the developer’s other recent titles it is not simply a reskin of Kingdoms of Camelot. Beginning by pledging allegiance to the elves, dwarves or orcs from Tolkien’s classic — a largely aesthetic decision — the game then provides players with an optional tutorial before presenting them with the usual rather “freeform” experience that the midcore strategy genre offers. Players will divide their time between building and upgrading their base, attacking computer-controlled “wilds” areas and attacking other players. A sequence of quests guides players through a series of suggested actions, but aside from these quests, which provide little more than context-free objectives, there is no sense of unfolding narrative or direction to the game. This may leave players hoping for an authentically “Tolkienesque” experience somewhat disappointing.

Building a base is achieved in a similar fashion to other midcore strategy games and bears a particular resemblance to titles such as Kixeye’s Backyard Monsters, Digital Chocolate’s Galaxy Life and Kabam’s own Edgeworld. Players construct buildings using collected resources and currency and may either wait for them to complete construction or bypass the wait timers using hard currency. The layout of the base is relatively important, as defensive structures only cover a certain area — this means it is necessary for higher-level players to ensure as much of their territory is protected as possible for when other players come knocking. There is little risk of this early in the game due to the usual “beginner’s protection” provided to the player — though this protection immediately and prematurely disappears if you attack another player’s city or an area under their control.

Hobit

Attacking other areas is achieved on the Region map, which is divided up into hexagons, each of which has a particular “level” and terrain type. Early in the game, players are tasked with attacking certain specific types and levels of terrain tiles to complete quests — unfortunately, the seemingly randomly-generated persistent online world map doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the player’s first city will be located anywhere near one of the tiles necessary to complete one of these quests, which seems like something of an oversight. There’s also no way of switching back to the player’s city directly from the Region map — the player must instead first switch to the largely-useless (but attractively-presented) World map before they can then switch back to their city. Clicking on the World map allows jumping straight to a particular Region, but given that the game doesn’t show coordinates while browsing the World map and the Regions zoomed to often bear no relation to the area of the World map clicked on — apparently The Shire is a barren wasteland devoid of all life — it is not particularly helpful.

When the player has chosen to attack a territory, they bring in the heroes and armies they have trained in their city and place them in deployment areas, then command them to attack specific enemy groups or structures. This part of the game is somewhat akin to real-time strategy games, but the interface is so simplistic that there’s not a lot of opportunity for developing complex strategies on the fly, and combat more often than not comes down to whoever has more, stronger units. This is nothing unusual for the midcore strategy game genre, but it’s a shame Armies of the Third Age doesn’t try anything a little more adventurous or different.